Libby Copeland discusses Monica Lewinsky's graduation from the London School of Economics in this Washington Post piece.
After the initial gasp of surprise at this startling fact, Copeland goes on to describe a subset of humanity she calls "dumb-but-smart people."
Dumb-but-smart folks defy our low expectations. They appear dull or ditzy but possess unpredictable pockets of intelligence...
We all know a dumb-but-smart person -- the airheaded clotheshorse who holds an Ivy league PhD; the mulleted townie who grows up to be a Wall Street tycoon. These people are smart in spite of themselves. At high school reunions, the pleasure of looking better than a former flame is completely undone by the mysterious success of the dumb-but-smarts, who seem too stupid even to appreciate their own unlikely journeys.
To me, the examples she gave were people who we used to call "book smart." The opposite were the people who were "street smart," and we always put our money on those people over the book smart people. Street smart people tended to be savvy and intuitive, capable of thinking on their feet, taking a gamble, and having the gamble pay off.
Book smart people, on the other hand, could hold multiple post-graduate degrees and still be living with their parents because their degrees were in useless things like European Literature or Fat Studies. They are more introverted, focused on task, follow rules, and risk averse. I confess to being a book smart person. :)
There's a whole feminist screed that could be written about the infamous Ms. Lewinsky and her thesis, In Search of the Impartial Juror: An Exploration of the Third Person Effect and Pre-Trial Publicity. About the low expectations people have of women, particularly women who flaunt their sexuality. How sexually-expressive women get punished for showing interest in Teh Sex.
But the moral of Lewinsky's story (at least to me) wasn't about sexually-expressive women getting punished. It was about doing stupid things when you are young that you will live to regret later. I can't imagine Monica reliving her thong-snapping flirtation with the president for her children or grandchildren, at least, if she really is a smart person.
Sadly, though, no matter how many degrees Monica gets, no matter how many purses she sells, no matter how many reality shows she hosts, her obit will be about thongs, cigars, blowjobs, and a little blue dress. I guess that's the epitome of the smart-but-dumb person.
Cross-posted at Common Sense Political Thought.
UPDATE: Not surprisingly, Amanda at Pandagon misses the point.